The San Diego Zoo has to be the best zoo in the world (in my opinion). In March 2018, I was travelling with friends and we visited the San Diego Zoo and were shocked and impressed by the size and their collection of animals.
The San Diego Zoo sits on 100 acres and houses about 3,700 animals. The park opened in 1916 and now is over 100 years old. A one-day adult pass is $54 USD. Multi-day passes and memberships can also be purchased. Special animal encounters can also be purchased during your visit where you will have interactions such as a panda meet and greet, keeper for the day and a behind the scenes tours.
The zoo is popular, so make sure to arrive early in order to get a parking space. Parking is free. We would suggest buying your ticket online to avoid any potential crowd at the ticket booths. The day we went to the San Diego Zoo the place was packed. By noon, there was no parking available in the zoo lot and guests were lined up to get tickets both at the ticket booth and self-serve kiosks.
When you enter the zoo, get a park map. I would recommend starting your day with the bus tour. This tour will give you a good overview of the park. If you are able to, sitting on the top deck of the bus provides wonderful views of the animals. If you sit on the bottom deck of the bus you will be shaded while viewing the animals, but you will be unable to see some of the animal enclosures on the tour. The tour last approximately 40 minutes. The buses are wheelchair accessible.
Make sure to visit the pandas next. They get a really long line for viewing them. The San Diego Zoo has 2 pandas. They were fairly active during our visit, they spend a lot of the day eating. Before seeing the pandas, the zoo staff take a picture of your party. This photo can be purchased or you can opt out of the photo opportunity.
As you make your way around the zoo there is one main path that travels around the outside of the park. This will allow you to see the main animals and travels along a similar path as the bus tour. There are some smaller paths off the main path that have several animals of interest and those are not to be missed.
The San Diego Zoo meets the US’s ADA accessibility standards. Ramps are provided throughout the zoo to accommodate wheelchairs. Some walkways have very steep inclines and are not recommended for wheelchairs or scooters so make sure to be aware of and read safety signs throughout the park, there are alternate routes. Wheelchairs can be rented from the Zoo for use for the day on a first come first serve basis. The San Diego Zoo provides free admission to a caregiver should those with special needs require an attendant throughout the day. Service animals are permitted within the Zoo. A kennel is available outside the Zoo for all other animals. Fees apply for the kennel. A shuttle inside the park is provided complimentary for all those with special needs or mobility issues. Any zoo staff member with a radio can request this shuttle service for you.
The San Diego Zoo is open 365 days a year for your enjoyment, so if you are able to visit during off-peak season the zoo will be less crowded and easier to enjoy.
Thirty-five miles from the San Diego Zoo is the San Diego Safari Park. This 1,800 acre park has 2,600 animals. The Safari Park is a walking experience where the animals roam the grounds in herds, similar to how they would in the wild. Animal talks are done by the keepers that will help you get to know the animals and their species.
It is recommended to do the zoo and safari park on different days. Both parks will take several hours to see all the different animals and experience everything the parks have to offer.